The Winton Diesel

Abandoned in a Quarry/ A 500 HP, Six-Cylinder Winton Diesel Gets a Needed Nudge and Roars Back to Life

Long view of the Winton

Long view of the Winton, all 14,778 cubic inches of it

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It couldn't have been a better day, especially for mid-November in the Northeast and after one of the coldest Octobers on record, as a group of 'Engine Nuts' gathered at an old gravel quarry to witness an extraordinary event. There, in the dark confines of an old powerhouse, sat a 500 HP Winton diesel. And to the delight of all who were there, Dave Johnson, Corfu, N.Y., was about to start the old engine and show us the fruits of his labor.

Dave gave a brief explanation of what would be involved to get the old engine running again, and then Craig Prucha, Pavillion, N.Y., manually pumped the fuel injector pressure up to 2,000 psi. Using Dave's homemade portable compressor set-up, the starting air tanks were pumped up to 200 psi. Finally, with all the joy of a kid in a candy shop, Dave put his hand on the speed control lever and applied the starting air. Slowly, the huge flywheel began to turn.

Winton Diesel

Dave's 500 HP six-cylinder Winton diesel engine was built by the Winton Engine Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, some time in the early 1930's. These engines were used in railway locomotives, and some even found their way into Coast Guard buoy tenders on the Great Lakes, where they provided ballast and power to pick up buoys.

This engine is a model 6/1580, serial number 5091, and its rated speed is 360 rpm. It has a 14-inch bore and 16-inch stroke, which equates to a total displacement of about 14,778 cubic-inches, or 242 liters. The engine has four valves per cylinder, and a variable-lift cam on the injector valve is connected to the Woodward governor to control engine speed. The engine, along with its direct-connected generator and exciter, weighs in at around 50 tons. It has direct fuel injection, and a single fuel pump (not counting the manual pump) supplies a manifold with fuel oil compressed to 2,000 psi. Each cylinder has an injector with a cam-operated valve that admits fuel oil into the cylinder at a precisely timed moment.


This engine and a sister engine were installed at the village of Arcade in southwestern New York in 1935. The engines were direct-connected to Westinghouse 438 KVA, 2,400 volt/AC generators and provided electricity for Arcade. Dave recounted a story about a fellow who went to the power station in Arcade, complaining that his clock was 15 minutes slow. The plant operator made a slight adjustment to the governor on the engine, and then asked the man to come back in a month and tell him if his clock was still slow. A month later the fellow returned, reporting all was well. Apparently, his clock relied on the 60-cycle operation of the power lines for its time base, and it was off just a bit!

In 1955, Syracuse Sand and Gravel Co. purchased the engines to power quarry equipment. One engine was installed in a powerhouse for the seasonal operation of quarry equipment, and the other was used for parts - the flywheel and generator were scrapped. The engine installed in the powerhouse was used up to the 1980s, when it was discovered someone had broken into the powerhouse and removed some of the copper bus wire from the generator connections. The company decided not to get it running again, and left it sitting.

Dave Johnson found out about the engine about two years ago. He has handled large, multi-cylinder engines like this before, a prime example being a four-cylinder Bruce-Macbeth engine he restored to perfection and that he takes to local engine shows. Dave was interested in the Winton, but he wanted to make sure it would run before he went through the monumental task of moving it.

Having sat idle for many years, the Winton needed lots of work to get it running again. The number one and six cylinders were stuck, so Dave poured fuel and lubricating oil into each cylinder through the off-compression ports to try and free up the pistons. The ports themselves were plugged with carbon, so Dave had to clean those. Finally, using a pin and a railroad jack on the flywheel, Dave was able to break the pistons loose. Dave also had to clean out and refill the large oil tank that supplies the two, gear-drive oil pumps. One of these pumps oil for engine lubrication while the other empties the oil sump and pumps the oil through a heat exchanger back to the tank. Since he didn't know the condition of the heat exchanger, Dave bypassed it with hydraulic hose running directly to the oil tank.

Fuel oil is supplied to the engine from a 'day tank,' which is itself replenished from a large underground tank. Since the condition of the day tank was unknown, a smaller tank was connected for the engine's short experimental runs. As set up at the quarry, water supplied from a pond passed through the heat exchanger, cooling the engine and lubricating oil. For the short runs Dave took the engine through, the engine block provided enough mass to keep the engine cool.


Words cannot describe the feeling of sheer power vibrating through the room as the engine picked up speed and began running under its own power. As Dave opened the engine's speed control, the Winton responded with a burst of speed. Its 18 rocker arms, exposed at the top of the engine, were mesmerizing to watch, performing their intended function at precisely the right moment. It was, truly, a unique experience to witness this engine in operation. Due to the missing bus wire the generator wasn't producing power, but the exciter was still putting out 100 to 120 volts.

Although the Winton's working days are over, Dave intends to remove it and put it on permanent display at the Western New York Gas and Steam Engine Association show grounds in Alexander, N.Y. Many thanks to both Dave and Craig for making this unique event possible.

Contact engine enthusiast Woody Sins at: 3 Edna Terrace, New Hartford, NY 13413, or via e-mail at: hitnmiss 1 ©